Study eyes coastal impacts of El Niño cycles


If climate change intensifies El Niño and La Niña, it could have big impacts on coastal erosion. @bberwyn photo.

Coastal Pacific areas seen as vulnerable to intensifying storms

Staff Report

If global warming strengthens the cycle of El Niño and La Niña events — as projected by some studies — it could lead to an increase in storm events bringing extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to a multi-agency study published today in Nature Geoscience.

“This study significantly advances the scientific knowledge of the impacts of El Niño and La Niña,” said Patrick Barnard, USGS coastal geologist and the lead author of the study. “Understanding the effects of severe storms fueled by El Niño or La Niña helps coastal managers prepare communities for the expected erosion and flooding associated with this climate cycle.” Continue reading

Climate: Planet Earth was baking in August 2015

Global temps once again shatter monthly records


Above-average temperatures spanned the globe in August 2015.

Staff Report

Most of the Earth’s surface was much warmer than average during August, which ended up as the warmest on record, according to the latest monthly State of the Climate Report from NOAA.

The average land and sea surface temperature for the month was 1.58 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, beating the monthly record — set just last year — by 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit.

More statistics from the National Climatic Data Center’s report reinforces the recent El Niño-fueled surge in global temperatures. August was the sixth record-breaking month in 2015, and five of the ten largest monthly temperature departures from average all happened this year. Continue reading

Will this year’s El Niño be a climate wildcard?

‘This is a new planet’


El Niño still strengthening in the Pacific.

Staff Report

LINZ — This year’s strong El Niño may be a climate wildcard, according to experts with the World Meteorological Organization, who said changes in the northern hemisphere’s climate may interact with El Niño in as-yet unknown ways.

“The last big El Niño was 1997-1998. The planet has changed a lot in 15 years,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. “We have had years of record Arctic sea ice minimum. We have lost a massive area of northern hemisphere snow cover, probably by more than 1 million square kilometers in the past 15 years. We are working on a different planet and we fully do not understand the new patterns emerging.”

He said the 2015 El Niño is unique because of the unprecedented combination of the Equatorial influence of El Niño, and the Arctic influence of low sea ice and snow cover in place at the same time.

“This is a new planet,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO co-sponsored World Climate Research Programme. The 2015 El Niño is the first to take place since the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice and snow cover, Carlson said. Continue reading

Climate: NOAA report says rising sea level and El Niño could combine to up coastal flood threats

Inundation ‘tipping points’ are near


This year’s strong El Niño could increase the risk of nuisance flooding in many coastal communities.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When you take steadily rising sea levels and add in a strong El Niño, it’s a perfect recipe for nuisance flooding, federal climate researchers said in a new report that aims to quantify high water risks for coastal communities.

According to the NOAA report, many mid-Atlantic and West Coast communities could see the highest number of nuisance flooding days on record through April, with some locations seeing a 33 to 125 percent increase in the number of nuisance flooding days. Continue reading

Climate: El Niño could extend Pacific Northwest drought

NOAA updates seasonal outlook; El Niño likely to persist into spring


Warmer than average sea surface temperatures prevail across most of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, as El Niño continues to strengthen.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal weather experts today said they’re more sure than ever that a strong El Niño will persist through the fall and winter, but they are less certain about how the cyclical Pacific Ocean climate pattern will play out across the U.S. The Aug. 13 El Niño update and diagnostic discussion is online here — it says there’s a 90 percent chance El Niño will last through the winter and an 85 percent chance it will last into early spring 2016.

During an El Niño, sea surface temperatures are above average across the eastern and central equatorial Pacific, and this year’s event could be among the strongest on record dating back to 1950, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Continue reading

Study: Subtle climate shifts boost Galapagos penguins

"Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) -Isabela2" by putneymark - originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Galapagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) -Isabela2”  by putneymark – originally posted to Flickr as Galapagos penguin Isabela Elizabeth Bay. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Research shows how climate shifts can play out in local ecosystems

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rare Galápagos penguins may be benefiting from shifts in trade winds and ocean currents, researchers said after tracking subtle climate shifts that have enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding.

The trend could continue during the coming decades, helping to bolster northern hemisphere’s only penguin population, which has doubled from just a few hundred to about 1,000 in the last 30 years, the scientists said in paper to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, an American Geophysical Union journal.

“The penguins are the innocent bystanders experiencing feast or famine depending on what the Equatorial Undercurrent is doing from year to year,” said Kristopher Karnauskas, a climate scientist who performed the research while at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Continue reading

Climate: Coral reefs taking a big hit this year

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO BY CAROLINE ROGERS/USGS.

Coral reefs in the Caribbean, like this one in the U.S. Virgin Islands, are at risk of bleaching as global warming heats up the world’s oceans. Photo by Caroline Rogers/USGS.

Warm oceans leading to widespread reef bleaching

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean researchers have updated their warnings of potential coral reef bleaching based on unusually warm ocean temperatures across the north Pacific, equatorial Pacific, and western Atlantic oceans this summer.

Scientists with NOAA’s coral reef watch say they expect  bleaching of corals on Northern Hemisphere reefs through October, potentially leading to the death of corals over a wide area and affecting the long-term supply of fish and shellfish.

“The bleaching that started in June 2014 has been really bad for corals in the western Pacific,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator. “We are worried that bleaching will spread to the western Atlantic and again into Hawaii.” Continue reading


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